STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Scouting the run offense: As far as debuts go, it wasn’t the best of showings last week for Oregon’s run offense. Mind you, the Ducks still totaled 212 yards on the ground on 42 carries with two touchdowns but there wasn’t anything jaw-dropping about the performance. Eight different players secured a rushing attempt in the game, but five players had at least five rushes.
CJ Verdell was the third running back to enter game for the Ducks, but the most efficient. He finished with team-highs in carries (13) and yards (51), showing a unique blend of strength, quickness and patience. Starter Tony Brooks-James showed off his durability, rushing five times for 27 yards and adding one catch for 53 yards. Quarterback Justin Herbert even got in on the action, carrying six times for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Portland State struggled against the run in its season opener against Nevada.
Nevada ran for 216 yards on 21 carries, a 6.2 yards per carry average. The Wolfpack added four touchdowns and had five different players with a rush of at least 10 yards.
The Vikings didn’t have the personnel to stand up against the bigger Nevada linemen, often getting blasted off the line of scrimmage and unable to get off blocks.
My prediction is that Oregon runs wild on Portland State. After a so-so performance in the opener, the Ducks really find their groove as Brooks-James, Verdell and freshman Travis Dye get it going as Oregon totals over 300 yards in the game.
Scouting the pass offense: One thing is very clear when Oregon’s offense is on the field; Herbert is the real deal. If not for multiple drops, Herbert would’ve thrown for 400+ yards and seven touchdowns in the season opener — instead he settled for 281 yards and five scores. His arm strength is off the charts but it’s how he stays tall in the pocket and uses his feet to slide around that’s remarkable. But, the most impressive part was his accuracy throwing downfield, often hitting receivers in stride and between defenders.
Redd made up for a dropped pass by finishing with two catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns while Johnny Johnson III added a 40-yard touchdown catch. The most consistent player of the group was Dillon Mitchell, catching a team-high three passes for 26 yards and a score.
The Ducks pass catchers are a nightmare matchup for any team, possessing athleticism, speed and physicality among its group. Four different players had catches of at least 40 yards, showing off the big-play ability.
As bad as Portland State was against the run, it was even worse against the pass last week. The Vikings gave up 420 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Two Nevada receivers had over 100 yards and as a unit, they averaged 23.3 yards per catch. The Vikings, although physically imposing, don’t have the athletes to keep up with quick strike offenses. They also struggle with tackling, often over-running their angles and resulting in weak arm tackle attempts.
It’s going to be a good day for the Oregon passing game, but I think it’ll only be an advantage in the first half. The Ducks are going to be up big and instead of embarrassing the Portland State defense, I think head coach Mario Cristobal takes his foot off the pedal with the passing game and leans heavily on the running game.
Scouting the run defense: There’s two ways to look at Oregon’s rushing defense from its season opener. On one end, they gave up 136 yards in the ground, including 113 to Andrew Clair. That’s where the bad ends though. The Ducks didn’t give up a rushing touchdown, had seven tackles for loss and surrendered just 2.7 yards per carry, fifth best in the nation last week for a team that faced 40+ rushes.
It was rough going for the Ducks on Bowling Green’s first two drives as Clair found holes at will, but the secondary did a good job of preventing those runs from becoming big ones. Once the defense adjusted, Oregon a much better job of shedding blocks and sealing holes, completely taking away half of Bowling Green’s offense. Nose tackle Jordon Scott is a beast in the middle, just swallowing up holes on a consistent basis while defensive end and Jalen Jelks couldn’t be stopped, finishing with a team-high nine tackles.
Likewise, the Vikings ran the ball 43 times for 107 yards (2.5 yards per carry). Four different players carried the ball at least seven times but none of them averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry. Darrian Green led Portland State with 37 yards on 10 carries while Sirgeo Hoffman finished with a team-high 11 rushes.
The Vikings do have a dual threat quarterback in Davis Alexander — he ran the ball 10 times, finishing with 20 yards. Portland State must show its capable of throwing the ball otherwise teams will play man coverage with a single-high safety against the Vikings, stuffing the box to prevent the run.
I expect Oregon will live in Portland State’s backfield, being able to penetrate at will using four pass rushers. The Ducks might give up another 100-yard game but the yards per carry should be low again.
Scouting the pass defense: If the Ducks have any weakness as a team, it comes from the pass defense. This weakness was on full display in the first quarter of the season opener when Bowling Green was able to build a 10-0 lead on the strength of its passing offense, or mainly wide receiver Scott Miller. Miller gouged the Ducks for game-highs of 13 catches, 166 yards receiving and two scores. He proved nearly unstoppable from the slot, showing off his quickness and strength to find holes.
But, the Ducks adjusted and quieted Miller in the second half. They also did a great job of taking away any other receiving threat, limiting the next highest receiver to three catches for 35 yards.
Safety Ugochukwu Amadi added a pick-six while linebacker Troy Dye had a nice toe-tapping interception along the sideline. The cornerback duo of Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir held up nicely, showing off physicality amongst the bigger receivers.
Portland State doesn’t have much off a passing offense outside of tight end Charlie Taumoepeau, a preseason FCS all-American. Taumoepeau had three catches for 130 yards and two scores last week, showing off remarkable big-play ability for his size (6-foot-3, 240).
To limit Taumoepeau’s effectiveness, I expect the Ducks to play safety Jevon Holland more and have him lined up against Taumoepeau. Holland (6-foot-1, 192), who has drawn raves from his coaches and players for being smart and physical, had a very good debut last week.
Altogether, Oregon should be able to limit the Vikings and force them into a lot of third-and-long possessions, thus opening up the potential for interceptions. This could be the week the Ducks come together as a backend unit and gain confidence heading into the next few games.